There was a story on CNN today, reporting about a hunter who paid $350,000 to save the black rhino species by hunting and killing one of its members. In order to raise funds to conserve the animals, the Namibian government held an auction for the heads of several of its rhinos. The hunted rhinos are all older males, with no reproductive future, and whose aggression makes them likely to kill off younger members of their own species, thus representing a threat to the herd. Because the government does not have the funds to conserve the rhino, and cannot staff its parks well enough to stave off poachers, these hunting auctions are considered a utilitarian move to protect the few remaining members of the species. The question remains, however, is this wise?


Several arguments occur to me. If the hunter is truly a conservationist with a big bank account, why not donate the funds to the Namibian government to hire more staff? Or, if it isn’t an abridgement of the animal’s freedoms to just do what animals do, why not create a private place for the animal to grow old and die? From the Namibians, we get the following: Even If the government had enough staff, these older rhinos would still pose a threat to the species, and might kill of the next generation of black rhinos. Regarding penning up the animal, the animal rights activists are vociferous in their demands that the animal be free, and that it would be a cruel and indefensible act to abridge an animal’s freedom.

So, what seems socially and morally repugnant is now being regarded as acceptable, innovative, and beneficial to the black rhino species. This begs several other questions about this kind of acceptance. Does destroying some members of the herd, in order to benefit the others, fit into the realm of our current morality? Additionally, are we willing to treat the human species as we do the animal species?

In other words, can we apply the utilitarian argument to other aspects of our society?

A few years back, there were talks about death squads in the new health care bill. Today, elderly patients are assessed and then a medical panel determines whether they are indeed worthy of receiving high-level care – we’re talking a new heart, or cancer treatment, or some pretty expensive and death-defying stuff here, but you get the point. Too, there are families across the nation, which refuse to vaccinate their children for fear of things like autism, allergic reaction, and/or just the whole idea of being forced to stick a dead-virus laden needle inside their kid.

I’m certainly not the person to decide what is morally permissible in this world, and I’m well aware that agreement on these issues is as likely as finding Jimmy Hoffa, however, I am getting older, and, in the next decade or two, the younger generation’s sense of morality may very well come into play for me. I might need that heart, or that cancer drug. I might want my kid’s fellow students to get their vaccinations. In other words, right now I’m the hunter, but very soon, I might become the black rhino.

By ccxander

Bait and Switch

It’s amazing how history continues to show the disgusting truth about George Bush. In digging through his emails, a Los Angeles reporter recently discovered his leaking of sensitive information regarding the military. Like someone else is being accused of these days, Bush kept a private email account on his Presidential computer and many of those emails were hack-able by foreign intelligence services. During his Presidency, and for nearly a decade afterward, Bush withheld those emails from the public, but via the Freedom of Information Act, it has now been shown that several emails were related to military movements during the war in the Middle East.

Whether the information was actually used by the enemy to kill American troops has yet to be determined. However, sources suggest that due to Bush’s incompetence, foreign enemies had access to the movements of the American militia during wartime. It’s simply abominable to think that a politician would have the audacity to keep sensitive (and hackable) information on his personal computer when American lives are at stake.

Just one more thing to prove what a scumbag this guy really was.


My apologies. I need a retraction here. It wasn’t George Bush, it was Hilary Clinton who did this. Will the name on the marquis change the way people feel about the act?


Rudyard Kipling wrote,

 If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same… 

 I think he had it right.

By ccxander

Rafael Nadal and the Pope

For those of the Catholic Faith, this article is completely satirical and meant in good humor. If it offends, please use that wonderful sense of forgivenessyour religion provides for.


The Vatican is now the seat of Pope Francis, an Argentine priest with a penchant for poverty and the sort of progressive mentality one doesn’t usually expect from the Holy See. I went to see him this morning.


While queuing up in St. Peter’s Square, a shy, bronze-skinned, well-Nike’d Spaniard stepped in front of me on his way to a little pre-French Open blessing – think Rocky Balboa before the Creed fight and you get the idea. What happened next will explain the burden of Rafael Nadal’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. For journalistic integrity, I think it’s important to provide all of the details.

Rafael enters the Vatican and Father Francis emerges in full Papal gear. Francis gestures for Rafa to come over, but there are lines on the Vatican floor, and Rafa, not wanting to step on any of them, progresses toward Francis employing the navigatory wherewithal of an attention-deficit GPS. (Footnote 1 at bottom of page)

Eventually, Rafa reaches the holy man.


The Pope raises a hand to bless Rafa, and, well, we all know what happens when the poor kid is about receive, right? Nadal touches his ear-nose-ear-ear-nose-ear. Papa Frank, figuring the young man probably skipped Sunday school on his way to tennis practice and is confused in his genuflective efforts, tries to help Rafa out, crossing him once more. Rafa though, stuck in the sub-conscious Sahara where decisions are less made than automated, replies with another ear-nose-ear-ear-nose-ear sequence and P Frank is becoming visibly pissed.

Papa Frank raises his hand skyward and Rafa, now mortified by his own subconscious actions, thinks the Pope wants a high-five. He lifts his left hand toward the Popish palm, but before he can connect with the holy hand, his arm lassos above and behind his head with the sort of French Open-winning finish that only he can understand. The Pope, unfamiliar with Rafa’s technique, takes this as a high-five psych. Rafa reddens to the point where his facial hue matches the red clay of Rome.

Once again, Papa F blesses poor Rafael and you can almost see the pain in the Spaniard’s twitching face as his hands pass across his face, touching those now-calloused auricles and probiscus one more time. By now, Frankie’s face is turning purple and he’s beginning to shake, but being the compassionate and ever-forgiving representation of God on Earth, he performs the blessing one more time, praying with Papal power, that the boy will get it right. Rafa lifts a quivering hand, and for a moment, you get the sense that he just might overcome his need to move toward his ear. Even Big F is getting excited. Alas, the boy fails.

Unable to handle this heresy, PF goes into a full-bodied clench and gets his Papal robe stuck between his butt cheeks. He yanks at them, and Rafa, sensing an opportunity to show his respect, grabs at the back of his own shorts and yanks, smiling with satisfaction. Now, the two of them are standing there, one hand behind them holding a fistful of cloth, Rafa’s right hand going through some uncontrollable face-touching and Francis praying for forgiveness.

PFrancis, now over his vow of mercifulness and darn near ready to slap the kid, sprinkles Rafa with the Holy water. Rafa, overcome with horror about the water touching the ground, then tackles a small American woman, commandeers her water bottle, corrals the holy water, and sets the bottles (labels out) perfectly straight upon the Altar. Rafael then tilts his head southward, yells Vamos, flails his legs side to side and sprints out of the Vatican. Pope Francis issues a benediction to grand applause.

I am now headed back to Paris for the French. There is a rumor the Pope is coming to watch. They say Rafa is willing to move Heaven and Earth to win. We may just find out.

  1. For those who grew up in the eighties, there was a video game called Frogger where the gamer had to control a frog across a freeway of trucks and cars and the amphibian moved right, left, forward and back with uncommon irregularity. I was going to use this reference, but as I read it to my companion, she gave me a blank look, so I went with the ADHD reference instead. I still find the Frogger analogy better, but c’est la vie.






By ccxander

A Tale of Two Cities

Having spent three days in Firenze before coming south to Rome, the cities’ personalities differ at their extremities. Florence uses its arms to embrace you, while Rome simply flexes.

Firenze suggests acoustic guitar on the Ponte Vecchio, where sunset means a thousand couples wrapped around each other in poses more bacchanalian than virginal. Firenze means two hefty Italian women in the kitchen singing and laughing as they taste your al dente fettucine until it is olive-oiled to perfection. Firenze means Giotto’s Bell tower steps, which will kick your un-oxygenated ass, and the Uffizi museum where Caravaggio’s dark colors take you inside your soul. On the streets, Firenze means accordions and violins echoing down cobblestone streets as you search for the perfect Panini con afumicato before licking the sweet, sugary gelato from a too-full cone. Firenze means Piazzele Michelangelo’s hillside cafes where one can witness Brunelleschi’s dome atop the Duomo in the distance. With yellow and orange buildings, brown streets, and Crayola box fruit-stands on every corner, Firenze is a shade for all hours, and if one sits long enough, the days sharpness fades into twilight and pastels change like autumn’s leaves. Firenze’s blood is the Arno, a river, which carries widows’ tears, ripples with lover’s laughter, and nourishes the soils of the next generation of Florentines. Scents of garlic and fresh baked bread drift throughout the city and you can’t help closing your eyes and sniffing the air in even the most formal moments. I am in love with this city.

Rome is massive, meaty, manly. The Palazzo Venezia towers over exhaust-producing Via del Corso while the Colosseum’s bloody stones maintain vigilance in the background. Trevi’s Fountain is swimmable and there are enough steps in the Piazza di Spagna to wear out Rocky Balboa. Rome means thick Bolognese sauces with bulky Pici pasta and large loaves of stiff bread. Rome means leaving the table with an unbuckled belt and considering a week without shaving. There are gladiators here, bearing swords and the type of aggression that makes you re-consider jaywalking. Rome means drums and electric guitars in piazzas the size of football fields and white stone with hard-angled facades. Through Rome runs the Tiber, a muddy brown river that carries away blood of ancient wounds, the shame of Caesar’s slaves, and which cools the skin of modern-day warriors. There are drunks, and homeless and eighty-foot brick walls with enough cement between them to make you think Soylent Green. Scents of Parmesan and bacon flood the nights and you can’t help closing your eyes and wishing for the smell to dissipate. This city might not be right for me.

By ccxander

Rome Tennis…sort of

I’m here in Rome, Italy, covering an event for  The site owner believes I’m going to write about tennis.  I think otherwise. 🙂


If you know where you are going, the Foro Italico (stadium) is approximately 3,598 steps from Piazza di Spagna, otherwise it is exactly 9,487.   When you arrive, a blue-uniformed security guard named Giovanni checks your ID, scans your body a bit uncomfortably, and lets you pass onto the main walkway.

Moving toward the courts, you step on white, circular street plaques dedicated to Italian Olympians in sports like ciclismo, pesistica, scherma, and automobilisimo. You will feel insecure about scherma until you find out it means fencing. To your left, fifty small children scream and swat tennis balls over hobbit-sized nets upon grass courts, and you get the feeling Italy is prepping the next generation for a Wimbledon title. An ethereal and breath-inhibiting cigarette smoke hovers over the site and after about an hour, you get the feeling a giant filter would increase everyone’s life span. Beginning at 11am, however, a nice cool breeze kicks in and it’s mostly the South side of the stadium that suffers.

Behind the courts, a swath of trees adds green accents to the brick-red clay, and with all of the white hats on spectators’ heads, the Italian flag feels fairly ubiquitous. The trees are a nice touch, although they throw off a lot of pollen, and it being the early summer, there’s now a pretty constant back and forth rally of “achoo-salud” resounding throughout the stadium

The Foro Italico Express is a Disneyland-ish train that carries people from the entrance to the courts, although it moves slightly faster than a pregnant yak going uphill in soft sand, and if you walk quickly by the people on the train and smile, they pretend to hate you. All over the site, music accompanies the crowds, and if you stand central between the courts and the vending booths, you can hear four different radio stations at once, which I imagine is a lot like watching the show, The View (sans instrumentation).

Police here carry swords, and I can only imagine it’s a tribute to the gladiators of yore, since, well, let’s be honest, a sword? Hundreds of people rest on nearby lawns and drink caramel-colored beer and give tongue-lashings to 7-euro gelatos. Every vendor serves some form of pizza, and most are covered with fresh basil and geisha-face-colored mozzarella and, in Rome, the word margherita has nothing to do with tequila. (I asked, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one). There are many men here who are skinnier than the women, and most of them wear open collared shirts with enough chest hair to make you think the entire crowd is engaged in an effort to gradually smuggle in Chewbacca. At corners of the site, there are: an Estathé-sponsored paddle tennis tournament, a serve speed booth (top score is 104 by a 14 year-old girl, although her father was yelling at her during her swing so I think the radar reviewer may have added a few mph for child-protective reasons), and a pool where petite, loathsome ants will bite you and keep it a secret until four hours later when your ankles will swell like pomegranates.

On court, the clay is soft enough to muffle the noise of the bounce, so the normal smack-grunt-bounce-smack-grunt-bounce rhythm now has this zero-gravity thing about it. There are long chiaroscuro-hinting slide marks on the clay, and ball kids who show self-conscious romantic interest in the players. Around the stadium, colossal statues of Roman sportsman grace the grounds, and the marble stadium seats make slushy sucking sounds when you rise from them. Intermittently, the crowd roar, and I’ll swear at least one of the statues has moved his hands toward his ears.

There’s more to say about this place, but that pizza is too damn tempting, so I’m retiring for the day.  More tomorrow.

By ccxander


IMG_4148Giotto’s Bell Tower requires 436 steps up a dark circling hallway and, if you’re in pear shape, an oxygen tank. The Tower rises above Florence’s main attraction, the Duomo, and looks out over the entire city of palazzos, museums, and crowds of tourists that smile splendidly beneath remarkable body odor. This is my last stop on a 19-mile walking tour of the city.

This morning, I headed out to see Michelangelo’s Dave (collegial name because I’ve now seen him naked), and his contraposto pose before scouring the Uffizi for DaVincis and Botticellis. With a $72 Firenze card in hand, one skips all lines and you can get through all of the city’s sights in about ten hours. Thus, I’ve passed across the Ponte Vecchio and Pitti Palace, walked the Palazzo Vecchio and Medici Chapels, and eaten perfect pasta made by big-haired, large-breasted, black-clad Italian women who make cooking joyful and glare at you if don’t clean your plate.

At this time of year, there are thousands of people here, filling the streets with the sort of unbridled enthusiasm that causes them to slam into each other and trip over selfie-sticks and interrupt photos. I’ve seen children whose faces look like gelato attacked them and old. fedora-wearing men that stare at women’s backsides with the sort of sentimental yearning one gets when remembering youth. I’ve heard words end with vowels that should not end with vowels and seen gestures that look like seizures but are apparently friendly. I’ve stood behind the kitchen counter with an Italian family and walked enough cobblestone to blister my soles. And now, here I am, having walked the 436 steps with cramping quads and mangled feet, having staggered and crawled my final stiarwell to the top of the city, having felt life slipping from my lungs and legs, here I am, standing at the top of Giotto’s Tower.

It is 8:30 p.m. Giotto’s Tower closes at 6:30. I don’t think anyone knows I am here. I have yelled to the streets that I am stuck, but no one has heard my calls. I have this inkling to ring the bells before 9:00 pm arrives just to see if someone will come get me, however, I cannot lift myself to pull the rope. I am just sitting here, tears welling in my eyes, the day’s ache now paralyzing my legs. In ten hours, the sun rises. I’m actually longing for the comfort of last night’s plastic chair at the airport.

The night is becoming blurry. A ghostly echo now permeates the chamber’s tower. It may be my exhaustion but I hear the crescendoing whispers of a conversation.

Giotto, “Every day, up and down these goddam stairs just to ring the bell.”

Da Vinci, “ Giotto, I have this idea to get you up and down easier.”

Giotto, “Yea sure, now. Where were you three hundred years ago when I needed you!?”

Da Vinci: “I was working on a helicopter and a painting of some woman with a questionable smile.”

Giotto: “My knees are killing me, not to mention some guy just tried to hire me as his Sherpa.”

Da Vinci: “You want the elevator or not?”

Giotto: “Listen, Lenny. That elevator breaks, there’ll be hell to pay. Let’s just stick with the stairs for another thousand years until someone figures out how to keep time on a phone or something.”

Da Vinci: I envy your strength.”

The whispers fade. I am alone again. Against the stone wall, my head throbs. The air feels like a dog’s nose.  I hate Giotto.

By ccxander


One notable thing about Norwegian Air Shuttle flight 7096 is its small aisles. It’s as though the airlines believes all traveler’s carry the slight frame of Nordic Cross Country Skiers and are able to press their hips through the aisle-adjacent faces of other passengers. Imagine toothpaste pushing its way through a tube. Needless to say, there is an abundance of cheek-touching. The other notable thing is the seat size.   On a bet, I once tried to squeeze myself into a child’s car seat, sliding beneath the straps and retracting my legs until my toes were nearly inside my hips. The cramping was excruciating and I made sounds I didn’t know I could make. That experience was an exercise in lounging luxury compared to NAS 7096. Vern Troyer (Austin Powers’ Mini-me) would have bitched.

The plane from LAX to Rome, with a brief stopover in London’s Gatwick Airport is presumably uneventful. However, with Rome’s airport fire beginning the day I left, Gatwick has now become my own personal Hades. I am currently standing in a 230-passenger-deep line, being told “All flights to Rome have been canceled until Sunday. It is now Thursday morning. I have non-refundable pre-paid hotels, trains, historic monument tickets etc. that are now expiring faster than the deodorant this here NAS representative is wearing (maybe). I am in a mood.

The suggestion, which comes with a very professional “Sorry, sir” and one of those palms-up head tilts that is just the gesture of death to someone who wants assistance, is that I could purchase a new $500 ticket for Florence the following morning, although it leaves from the London City Airport about an hour distant (just across the city). I make the purchase and have a brief word with God about destiny and being fucked with.

Crossing London at night has this dysmorphic Paul Revere thing about it, although when one traveler grabbed me to ask if I knew where the Jack The Ripper exhibit was, I jumped centuries and then sprinted toward the train station. The trip requires five trains, some underground, a bit of walking, and at least one “unmentioned” left turn (that bitch!).

My final train ride requires some explanation. ON the “tube” (London vernacular), doors open at each stop. At London City Airport, however, it’s a quick open/close and I am about halfway out when the “shutting” occurs. Backpacking through Europe means I bear this faint resemblance to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Michelangelo, and what with Florence on my itinerary, the whole things smacks of irony. Point being, the “shutting” catches the edges of my turtle shell pack and I quickly feel my heels lift from the floor, sort of like those old video games where you control the claws that come down and try to clasp a teddy bear, except here I’m the damn bear. I’m now hanging from the door, accelerating in space, seeing the beginnings of a tunnel wall about thirty meters ahead, and wondering if this what bugs feel like before they hit the windshield. With one death-defying heave, I launch myself from the train and roll onto the cement, and end up like one of those grey mini-armadillo-looking pill bugs with the flailing legs. I roll over and crawl my way toward the airport. (…riding this entymological analogy all the way home).

At 11:30 pm, I arrive at London City Airport, just in time to find the food stands closed and to hear that the last local hotel room has been sold out. I am now curled fetally in a chair, which even Norwegian Airlines would consider embarrassingly small, consuming a bag of vending-machine Funions, staring at the remains of a three-day old croissant, and wondering whether the Roman gladiators would be proud of me. Nine hours ‘til my plane arrives. Good night!

By ccxander